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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Thursday Spotlight: Kathryn Shay

Please note, Kathryn will be checking here periodically for comments and questions. Please feel free to start a dialogue with her!

Dear Readers,

Today I’d like to talk about how authors enrich their work with their own experiences. I believe that if you sit in an office all day making up characters and storylines and never get out and meet real people or involve yourself in real activities, then your novels suffer. For me, this interaction comes in several ways and I’d like to share them with you.

First, a day job often filters itself into an author’s work. As I mentioned early in the week, I was a high school teacher for years, and several of my books have high school settings and deal with student/teacher issues. I’ve used courses I’ve taught in my work, suicidal teenagers based on ones I’ve helped and specific incidents of danger I’ve encountered in the classroom. In addition to these specifics, I believe my experience as a teacher really helped me to know people better, primarily teenagers. Therefore, you’ll see a lot of them in my books, along with men and women I’ve worked with whom I admire, and some I don’t. (This is always fun—basing a character on somebody I don’t like!)

I’ve also integrated into my books pieces of my life, like the recipes I discussed yesterday in A Man She Couldn't Forget. I’ve had my characters dine at my favorite restaurants, visit art galleries which I love, go to my yoga sessions, my previous ballet classes, and spend time at the Women’s Museum at Seneca Falls. I’ve even included trips with a friend to Alcoholic’s Anonymous. I also used some experiences from dating days with my husband, and when he read that book, he said, “This is about US?!”

Do most authors do this? I’m not talking about research here, but everyday life experiences. Do readers realize this? Do you like it? Or don’t you even think about this when you read? Let’s talk about that.

Kathy Shay

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